Easter at home

Thought I’d better do something about the lack of content here. I’m still only taking photos on my phone (something I plan to fix within the next month) but these are better than nothing. This morning Antonia totally bailed on the Easter egg hunt (she’s not into sweet things and couldn’t see the point) but Felix declared today to be one of the best days of his life. He woke up early and put two fleeces on and went for a solo ‘expedition’ with Whitby to the forest to check if Easter Bunny had been yet. She hadn’t. Luckily Easter Bunny managed to sneak out quietly before making waffles.

20170416_085739

Easter starts early in Norway (it’s closer to a week than a weekend) and it’s been so lovely to have this time to potter around with the kids. It’s been filled with everything good: gardening, hiking, crafting, baking, reading, knitting, hanging out with friends, and wandering down to our little beach. With some cleaning and sorting thrown in as well. At times (especially Friday, when Antonia had a fever all day) there has been a bit too much screen time for the kids, but it’s always worth it when we manage to peel them away. Michael’s been making a real effort to take Felix hiking – he complains a bit but I think he’s getting better. We’ve been pushing Antonia a bit too, though if we make her walk anywhere it’s slow going as she likes to roll around on the ground every 20 metres or so…

It hasn’t been entirely without challenges but on the whole it’s been really nice, and exactly what we needed. We finally sold our old house on Tuesday, and we had a somewhat stressful few days of emptying our loft and basement before we handed over the keys. (We’ve thrown a lot of stuff away but are still not sure where to put everything, so will have to get rid of a bit more.) But it’s been so nice just to slow down and hang out with the kids and enjoy being here. I remember really enjoying staying in Norway for Easter two years ago, when Antonia was still a baby. We tend to try to get to Germany for Easter, but last year that was so gruelling that we’ve decided to take a break from that particular endeavour. It’s just not warm enough yet to make it easy to hang out there with the kids.

Also it is just so lovely to get the chance to cultivate a few of our own traditions. We’ve never spent Christmas in our own house with the children (in fact we’ve only ever spent Christmas in our own house once, when I was eight months pregnant with Felix). So it feels special to have this time just for ourselves, to have an egg hunt, to make the hot cross buns. You can’t buy them here and Easter just isn’t the same for me without them. Felix helped make them so they are quite rustic to look at but they were delicious. They have orange rind, apple pieces, sultanas, dried apricots and cranberries inside, and plenty of spices. We spent last Easter dreaming about this house and deciding to try to buy it – we had a look at it the day before we left for Germany, and bought it the day we returned. I looked out of the window this morning and saw a squirrel preening itself on a tree branch. It is good to be here.

Yesterday we walked down to the beach after dinner. The sun had come out. We had to pester Felix terribly to get him out of the house, but as soon as we got to the beach he saw that the little wooden landing was in the water again, and he clambered out to it straight away, deciding that it was a magical vehicle that could be a boat or a plane or a car. Antonia was more or less happy to go with his storyline (“you’re fishing in the air now, Antonia, not the water, we’re flying.” “Ok”). He navigated us to magic land and cloud land and beach land, fetching rocks to throw into the water to get the “bad guys”. And it was pretty perfect.

Things I liked today

I guess it’s time to say (or well past the time to say, but never mind) that there will be another little munchkin around here in less than three months. I’m 29 weeks, and the little one is prodding at the computer on my lap as I write. It feels exciting but a little unreal. What is not unreal is the fact that bending over, putting on shoes, and picking things up from the floor are all becoming a lot more challenging.

Things that happened today that make me smile when I think back on them:

  • after some reluctance and a heartfelt explanation from myself about the difficulties of tidying up on my own, the kids very sweetly and whole-heartedly got involved. They even did a team job of wiping down the stairs!
  • it’s very sweet the way they can co-operate and work together at times – Felix explains patiently what to do, and Antonia says ‘ok!’ and complies (they do wind each other up at other times, of course)
  • Felix had a very cute moment with my friend’s one year old – passing him a glow-worm doll to play with, and patting him gently on the back
  • Felix hacking into parsnips and carrots with hair-raising enthusiasm, and passing them to Antonia to put in the pot for the soup
  • Antonia gleefully dipping her asparagus and cucumber sticks into her soft boiled egg at dinner time
  • Antonia deciding that Felix could play with her wooden rocket after all, once she understood how sad he was about it. She’s quite good at this – you just have to talk to her about how people are feeling and give her a minute to process it
  • Felix managing to swim backstroke (slowly and hesitantly) in a straight line at his swimming lesson for the first time
  • Felix managing to swim freestyle across the pool without stopping to take a breath (the instructor had asked them to go as far as they could, and then breathe if they needed, and he decided that he just had to make it all the way. He loves diving under the water so he’s had a bit of practice. It was the fastest I’ve seen him swim. Normally when he swims freestyle he takes far too many breaths which slow him right down. The instructor wasn’t watching properly and I don’t think she believed him when he said he made it the entire way across, but he did – you should have seen him puffing when he finally came up for air.)
  • reading Pippi Longstocking to both kids before bed. They liked it a bit too much and Felix decided that when I told him to got to sleep, he would, like Pippi, put his feet on the pillow and his head under the covers
  • Antonia cuddling up in bed with the pink hobbyhorse she only decided yesterday that she liked. She kept getting distressed if the horse’s pole wasn’t tucked in properly!

And not related directly to the two of them:

  • the soup itself (yum)
  • the snow swirling all day outside our windows (it was definitely an *inside* snow day – so windy!)
  • hanging out with my friends
  • reading for an hour after the kids fell asleep at 8

All that talk of books to read to Felix got me thinking about what I was reading – I hadn’t been able to find anything that was quite right. Then I found Elizabeth Strout’s latest – My Name is Lucy Barton – in our college library, and I just adored it. I’ve just finished Amy and Isabelle on my kindle, and I’m grateful that I think there are another three novels of hers I have yet to read. (I read Olive Kitteridge a few years ago on the urging of a friend, and loved it, but hadn’t tried any of her others till last week.) If any of you know of anything else I might get into – let me know!

The other thing I want to note down is that last weekend Antonia started drawing figures! Faces with arms and legs! She draws them over and over again, and today drew some dinner for them too, and a house. So far she’s been drawing with her left hand.

Things I liked today

  1. Hiking in Ystehede.
  2. Drawing robots.
  3. Preparing a lentil shepherd’s pie.
  4. Eating it, with a glass of wine.

We went for a walk today on the other side of our little fjord (which is really an inlet from the main fjord). We had a picnic there last week with Michael’s parents, and Felix and Michael had managed to explore the hiking track a bit, but today was the first time Antonia and I went there. It is just so lovely there. We climbed up the hill through the forest and were able to look over the water to our house, and had a little picnic a bit further on. Antonia acquiesced to sitting in the ergo backpack if I galloped along like a horse now and then to cheer her up. We let her walk some of the way but she kept stopping to sample blueberries and the weather was rather threatening so we didn’t want to take hours. She was bitterly disappointed that I wouldn’t let her scramble over all the rocky beaches on the way back (it was raining lightly, and they were slippery). She managed to negotiate for an icecream once we got home to make up for it.

Once we got home the kids and I practiced drawing robots. It was a good thing to do with Felix as robots are quite doable and rather fun. ‘Too scary robots’ are a thing in our house now. We saw a man dressed up as a robot outside the science museum in London a few weeks ago, and Felix loved him but Antonia did not. She was in tears a day later when we accidentally sat next to a life size toy robot in the Victoria and Albert museum of childhood. Felix of course is delighted and has decided he loves robots. But Antonia is warming to them, and it was her idea to draw them today.

Then I made my pie in response to the slight hint of autumn in the air, and it was good. It was very good.

I made a list because various other parts of the day were scrappy and challenging, but these bits were so nice. I do that a lot, I think – collate the best bits to remember. Life is gradually returning to routine after the summer holidays – classes start in two weeks. I often think of writing here in the evening but end up tidying or sorting laundry instead.

Also Felix today asked me if rocks could be big enough to reach another galaxy. Well, I said, lots of rocks float around. No, he said, from here. No, I said, they can’t. What if you stacked them up? They’d fall over. But what if they were really flat ones? 

 

11.52

11.52.antonia11.52.felix

We took these photos just before bath time tonight when I realised I didn’t have any photos from the week. Come into the hallway where the best light is, said Michael, after I snapped a blurry one of Felix at the dining room table. Both photos feature Michael’s new toy, lego TARDIS. Both children are entranced. Antonia is not really allowed to play with it, but I noticed she was being very quiet and when I went to check on her she was sitting up to the table, making the little lego Dr Who figures climb up and down the TARDIS stairs.

This weekend was considerably better than last weekend, but I am STILL SICK with sinus pain, headache, a nasty sore throat, and a low grade fever. I am somewhat fed up and steeling myself to get some writing done this week despite feeling groggy. I managed to take the kids swimming on Saturday morning which they enjoyed. Antonia was happy to wear her floaties around her arms (like Felix does) but refused to go in her ring. She did manage to swim around for a little while on her own with the floaties on, even twisting in a circle, before getting a mouthful of water and needing assistance. After her nap we went to the local shopping centre and had a coffee, bought some photo frames and a few groceries. Felix found the shopping cart shaped like a car and was gracious enough to let Antonia sit in it, when I warned him that was not negotiable. The only problem was trying to get her out of it, later.

Today some friends came over in the afternoon, and my achievement for the day was this black forest inspired chocolate sponge cake, with cream, cherries, and cream mixed with chocolate. I used this recipe for the sponge and it was delicious.

Now it’s nine o’clock and I’m going to bed, to see if an early night can help me kick this thing. Good night!

 

Weeknights II

The scene, 5pm: Felix happily copying numbers printed on a box, while I read a book to Antonia. You guys look happy, says Michael. I’m going upstairs for ten minutes.
Felix: Can I Watch?
Me: No.
Felix: But why? I haven’t Watched all day! I need to Watch!
Me: But I like to hang out with you and do things. It’s boring otherwise.
Felix: Can I paint my box?
Me (deep breath): ok.
I go to hunt for paints. I cut up plastic bags to put under the box so he won’t get paint all over the table. I find him a different top so he won’t ruin his nice white one. I find the paints. I find the paintbrushes. Antonia finds my old sunglasses and puts them on. Then she starts crying cos they fall off her nose.
Me: I’ll find you some other sunglasses, Antonia.
Felix: Not mine!!
He follows to make sure I don’t give his sunglasses to Antonia. I find Michael’s old sunglasses. She puts them on. She cries because they fall off her nose. I find a paper plate for Felix’s paint.
Me: What colour do you want?
Felix: What? (Antonia cries and cries.)
Me: What colour?
Felix: White. No. Blue.
I squirt out the blue paint and pick up Antonia, still screeching. He does one lack-luster brush of the box.
Felix: I don’t really want to paint.
Me: ???
I put his paper plate in the bin. I wash out the paintbrush.
Felix collapses on the sofa in tears.
Now Antonia wants to paint.

Weeknights

We’ve had a couple of nice evenings this week. Nothing spectacular, but nice all the same. It’s dark by 5 o’clock. Felix has found a bit of a groove cutting things up and colouring them in. He showed me how his friend taught him to draw a snake. Last night we got the craft box out and he made a helicopter and a boat out of egg cartons and paddle-pop sticks. All the while Antonia bumbled around on the floor reading herself books and building towers. Felix asked when he could learn to knit, so I made him a tomboy knitting thing out of a toilet roll. Tonight the glue was dry so I taught him how to make the stitches, and he could do it! I’m so proud of him. He’s pretty pleased with the grey and blue snake he produced.

I’d been worried about how much screen time he was having, but for some reason it wasn’t difficult to reduce it this week, and it appears to have paid dividends. Probably he’s just in a good mood but I’ll take it!

I’ve been reading up on eco-criticism and writing a conference paper on my latest literary crush – Kathleen Jamie. I have so many ideas, though writing is, most of the time, a slow slow thing. But honestly, do yourself a favour and get a copy of Sightlines.

Antonia has settled again at the barnehage this week which is an enormous relief. They told me she’s really getting into the music.

Domestic life between the adults in the house has been pretty harmonious too. There’s lots of good stuff coming together at M’s work.

Felix is learning about planets and solar systems in the barnehage so there are lots of discussions about how the moon relates to the earth, and which planets we could travel to, and how long would it take to get to the sun, and are rockets really clean, and what button do you need to press, and what about the other solar systems. Antonia is enchanted with the moon. ‘Ball!’ she declares enthusiastically whenever she sees it.

 

4/52

sleddingsledding2

Not the best quality images, but evidence that I dragged them outside this afternoon to muck around in the remaining snow… We had a week and a half hovering around -15 and it was too cold to be outside much but ah so beautiful. The whole world was frosted white and the sky was clear most days apart from little gauzy wisps of cloud, varying shades of pink and gold and pearly blue. Now the world is grey and soggy. But we had a nice weekend all the same.

I think my snowman building skills need work though. In the photo below Felix is about to start wailing because Antonia is tipping the snowman’s head off – which he had planned to do!

snowman2

And my dear, dear, puffball Antonia is about the sweetest thing in the world right now.

inside

 

November Lights

November weariness hit a couple of weeks early for me this year, and by the time November started I felt that although I was tired and had a lot to do at least I was picking up speed and the end was in sight. It was such a relief to get to the end of teaching a week ago. I love teaching, but the last few weeks felt harried and scrappy, not helped by kids who kept getting sick when Michael was away.

Only one week and a couple of days left till I leave for Australia. I have my fingers crossed that the little ones stay healthy – it’s just been one thing after another. I was looking forward to a quiet week at work finalising some writing projects, sketching out some new ones and putting my exams together, but it’s Wedensday and I’ve only managed one half day so far (fevers and vomiting all round, although I’ve stayed well, touch wood). There has been a range of domestic disasters too. Our dryer broke, and then I broke it more, trying to fix it. Our toaster gave up the ghost spectacularly, flooding the kitchen with smoke and making our house smell like a campfire for a week. A tray in our fridge snapped in half, I don’t know when.

Still. There’s washing drying on the clothes horse. Another load on. We had our tyres changed over to winter tyres today, in the nick of time. The house right now is fairly tidy, the way it only ever is at 10 at night. And I thought I would sneak a little time to write, just for me. And it makes me happy.

Felix and I made a pepperkakehus (gingerbread house) on the weekend. The pepperkaker pieces came in a box, and it was so. much. fun. I’ve always wanted to do one! I did the icing and Felix arranged the sweets. Antonia watched from her high chair. I’m doing Christmas things a little early with them because it’s nice to do them here, in our own house, in a Norwegian winter. The little house looks awesome. I put the christmas tree Felix insisted on buying last year next to it, and decorated all of it with some little snowflake lights. Photo soon.

This evening we made gingerbread shapes (the dough comes in a box, how clever is that) and started decorating them. The boy shares my love of sweet and sparkly things. Antonia even insisted on joining in and managed to stick some sweets onto a gingerbread man. Felix chose the shapes we made very deliberately. Four gingerbread people, to be our family. Some trees. Some bells. No horses. But I like the horse! I said. ‘Ok, but you have to eat it.’ And he thought the angel was a transformer. After his bath, Felix chose a tree to eat. ‘Isn’t it pretty!’ he said. ‘I’m going to save the transformer for tomorrow. I’m getting into transformers.’

When I picked Felix up from the barnehage this afternoon, it was dark and misty. Often the children go back inside at this point, but his class was still out. I could barely see a thing. ‘Felix!’ I called. ‘Over there’, said his carer. A boy on a tricycle wearing a beloved brand new bright blue and dark blue snow suit with little zips careered towards me through the mist. ‘Just one more round!’ he said, and pedalled off furiously to do a lap of the barnehage. I stood in the cloudy dark, holding Antonia, getting cold. ‘Felix!’ I called again. Surely he would be back by now. And then I looked up and he came round the corner triumphantly, riding quite fast, backwards! Like one of his favourite characters from the movie Cars. ‘Wow, Felix, backwards driving!‘ I couldn’t see his face through the mist but I knew his grin would be as big as mine.

November garden (45/52)

45.52.felix 45.52.antonia

Michael is away again this weekend. We went into town yesterday and had some friends over for dinner in the evening. Today the sun was shining but Felix didn’t feel like going anywhere. It was actually really nice not to hop in the car all day. We played lego, changed all the bed sheets, did a craft kit while Antonia had her nap, went outside for a bit in the afternoon, and baked scones at Felix’s insistence after our scrambled eggs for dinner. Work is getting really busy at the moment, and I’ve noticed a certain end of semester fatigue setting in, but after this weekend I feel ready to power through the final through weeks to exams.

Yesterday, Felix mopped the floor for me. The mop was *cough* quite a novelty. Today Antonia let me brush her teeth without screaming the house down. This was quite a novelty, too. I sang a teeth brushing song instead. At the end, I said ‘well done Antonia, high five!’, hoping to distract her from her tiny bit of protest at the end. She beamed, took the tooth brush out of my hand, and gave me a high five. I’ve never done this before – they must do it at barnehage. Felix hopped out of his bath without complaining and they spent the next five minutes high-fiving each other and giggling their heads off, before Antonia insisted on handing out the baby pine cones that Felix and I had collected. It totally made up for Felix’s mini tantrum earlier when he decided that he did want to go out after all once it was too late.

Love. Love. Love.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

45.52.antonia2

pine2

pine3 pine

43/52

43.52.felix

43.52.antonia.smile

Felix: concentrating.

Antonia: grinning, clambering over me. (I actually have a series of photos of that smile.)

Yesterday was a lot quieter than planned as we had to cancel hanging out with Felix’s best friend as Antonia was sick. Felix was sad. But he played with his sister, all the same. I love these two.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

duplo duplo2 duplo3 duplo4 duplo5

Felix eye view

felix_view

Felix commandeered the camera while we were getting the house ready to eat plum cake with our friends this morning. The photos are exactly as he took them – I haven’t altered them at all. I think they are rather charming – screaming toddler and all. (She will not tolerate the vacuum cleaner.) You don’t normally get photos of this stuff. The plum cake was delicious – my first attempt at a german style cake, made with plums from my colleague’s garden.

felix_view2 felix_view3 felix_view6felix_view9felix_view8

17/52

17.52felix17.52antonia

Felix: his latest creation: squares inside cubes. These magnet shapes were his birthday present from my Grandma, and he has played with them so much.

Antonia: crawling at great speed across the hallway, curly as anything after her bath.

Today was Michael’s birthday and we invited some friends over and had a lovely but busy time eating marzipan cake and ANZAC biscuits. I’ve been finding it hard to keep up the photographs recently, so I snapped these just before bedtime this evening (a bit like last week). But I don’t mind the very ordinary moments they capture  – the kids’ scatty energy at 6.30pm, the open dishwasher, the hallway. We won’t always live here, I guess, and I do love this house – its squareness, its snugness, its windows. Antonia is so very pleased that she can open the door from the lounge to the hall herself, and crawl all the way across it and into the bathroom. And Felix, these days, is a non-stop creator – rockets and balls out of magnet shapes, drawings of trees and flags, geometric patterns with his little plastic beads.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

And I couldn’t resist a couple of extra shots of the curls.

17.52antonia2 17.52antonia3

16/52

16.52.felix16.52.antonia

Felix: chilling out on a Sunday evening after a busy weekend of baking, socialising, and bouncing in the sun.

Antonia: doing the same.

Often there’s a sweet spot after dinner in which the kids are happy enough to bumble around for a while and we can even drink a cup of tea. This evening Felix was a little overwrought after a full afternoon playing with Michael and our visitors – he was still demanding loudly that we play with him,  but we all needed quiet, so Thomas the Tank Engine and pita bread pizza came to the rescue. There is quite a lot of satisfaction in giving your kid exactly what they need when they need it. Antonia had more energy to play after a big drink of milk. Now both munchkins are asleep (for the moment at least) and we are savouring the quiet. Happy Sunday evening to you all. x

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

16.52.felix.2

What was I saying about spring?

snow

We’re back in Norway. I spent Antonia’s midday nap today shovelling snow.

snow2

It’s pretty cosy inside though. Here’s our toy storage space in our living room, with an added box of baby toys. It’s been fun revisiting the things Felix used to play with. The two wicker baskets are still stuffed to the top with wooden trains and tracks, in use almost daily. This week Antonia has perfected crawling forward, so the tracks are frequently in peril.

sideboard2

I finally managed to hang up a picture of the two of them that I took last year. ‘Do what you love.’

sideboard3

Seven months

munchkins

Being seven months old with a big, adoring, bouncy brother is quite an experience. This evening Antonia laughed and laughed at Felix’s game of throwing a balloon to Michael and me, and then trying to catch it himself. This morning when she started complaining in her highchair while I was getting Felix’s lunchbox ready, Felix found a board book about a snowman and ‘read’ it to her to keep her happy.

seven

I’ve been enjoying kicking around the house with her once again. At seven months Antonia loves to chat, loves to smile at strangers, loves to wriggle around, give slobby kisses, snatch glasses, do downward dogs and get up on her hands and knees, but she still hasn’t figured out crawling forwards. In the car, she still sings herself to sleep. She’s been enjoying talking to my Mum on skype – now she starts smiling already the moment I log in.

seven2

She is our cheeky gorgeous babe and we love her so.

seven3

 

Back

I need to write some of this down before it fades. The flight back went very well, despite some anxiety about boarding passes in Kuala Lumpur airport. The kids slept well and played well and were generally agreeable, and did not get sick which was appreciated. I got some motion sickness tablets for Felix and who knows if he needs them or not but every other long haul flight over the past two years has ended in vomit, so I’ll definitely be packing them from now on. Felix was a little bored sitting around on the plane but he entertained himself admirably. I didn’t even have an ipad for him. He was absolutely gorgeous in the airports, insisting on walking himself and pulling his little suitcase, but quite happily going as fast as I asked him to in order to find our gate. In Doha airport by the time they announced boarding for families with small children and business class passengers, everyone else had already started queuing, so I decided to barge past them all. ‘Excuse me!’ I said. Felix piped up gleefully: ‘Coming through! We have a baby and a little guy, coming through!’

We were all so happy to see Michael again. We arrived at 7.30 in the morning and Felix did not stop talking all day, not even napping in the car on the way back to Halden, until he crashed into bed at 6pm. Antonia chuckled and wriggled whenever Michael looked at her, and when we went to our favourite cafe in the afternoon, was only interested in tasting Michael’s bun, not mine.

Driving into Halden felt so strange. Michael said it had felt strange to him to – in your mind are still all the roads and paths and light and routines of the place you have left, and you have to let them go and replace them with those of this place, but you are reluctant at first, you try to hold on. Norway has obliged by making it as easy as possible for me with a week of cold sunshine and frosted grass. Yesterday morning I looked out of the window and there were four young deer stepping carefully across our lawn.

Our friends are eager to see us. We feel welcomed. Felix has slotted back into barnehage life without a hiccup. I haven’t quite got enough winter things for Antonia to wear, but we are getting by. The days are light-filled. It was very clever of me to skip February.

When I walked in the door to our little house I thought – how is it possible to live in a house so small? It is perfectly possible, of course, and very lovely even, as long as you stay on top of all the cleaning and putting stuff away, so I have been attacking those things with gusto, making the small changes to our living space needed for a nearly seven month old baby instead of a three month one. An extra box of toys on the shelf instead of the box of changes of clothes we had down here before. The difference in Antonia and in the shape of our family after a space of three months is significant. She sits at the table with us now in her highchair. We need four glasses for water at dinner, so I pulled out a jug for water for us all, and it felt special. Antonia loves to drink water from a glass – she flaps her arms out wide with excitement, then grips the top of the glass and takes a couple of sips before blowing raspberries in it. Soon the novelty of all this will collapse into the every day, but I hope some of the specialness can stay.

Snapshots of a week

love

Felix singing Twinkle Twinkle to Antonia one morning. He loves her but I find myself saying frequently – ‘she’s sleeping, don’t touch her, crash into her, or put things on top of her.’

We’ve been home alone this week as Michael is in America. It has its moments. Actually it is all moments – noisy, calm, sweet, rushed, funny, headachy, whiny, cuddly, snuffly, bouncy… The trick is not to worry too much about which moments are coming next. And if there is a quiet moment to relax into it. Like this one – Antonia entranced by the dryer.

babytv2

It has been rainy and the light on the wet leaves made me think of this poem by Clive James.

leaves

With an increase of unsupervised time in the house, strange things are happening. I find the coffee plunger in the fridge. Felix puts the shopping away and his ham ends up in the freezer. He pulls all the measuring cups out of the kitchen cupboard and washes them in the bathroom sink. The scrubbing brush goes missing. I find my boots on the draining board.

bath3

I stuck them both in the bath yesterday. Once Antonia was dry and dressed I raced upstairs to fetch Felix’s pyjamas. Returning, I found he’d squirted her all over with a plastic syringe. Daddy did it, he said.

bath2

I bought Antonia some bright red stockings, and together with a dress from my aunt, a cardigan made by my Nanna, and a bib from Mum, they just make me so happy.

red2

Right now Antonia is having a long morning nap (the first long nap for a few days) and I’ve persuaded Felix to watch Thomas the Tank Engine so I can write. Folding the washing can wait.

red

One day

day1

These photos were all taken on one very full day at the end of June. We started out bright and early – around 6 – with trains, coffee beans and blocks. Felix had seen a picture of a wooden train track and a wooden-block town in one of his picture books the night before, and as soon as he woke up he demanded we head downstairs and get to work.

day2

After that we made scones for breakfast.

day3

day5

and Felix cuddled the baby.
day7

Then I took him on a trip to the University College, because he’s always asking to visit my work. I didn’t take any photos there but he met some of my colleagues, at his sandwiches in our lunch spot, did some photocopying and stapling and made a little book including some colouring-in pictures that one of my colleagues kindly printed out for him. Then we went home and he coloured them in.

day8

Afternoon snack time – I finished my baby blanket and Felix made a duplo train track, and bricked up one of his engines in a huge shed.

day9

He was so proud of himself!

day10

The digger had to come and rescue the engine.

day11

Then it was time to cook dinner. Felix made his own ‘chocolate and raspberry cake’ on the kitchen floor. And I bet he went jumping on the trampoline later. So many things…

day12

Nesting

I guess there is no better word, but the image of a bird fluffing her feathers and pecking at sticks doesn’t quite convey the fierce wellsprings of energy I feel right now to clear surfaces, overhaul cupboard space, throw away old clothes and broken toys, sort, streamline… Everything I look at has to be fixed now.

Felix woke up at four this morning (can’t blame him, by four there has been full daylight for ages), and I could still hear him shuffling around in his bed after five, so I lay on the sofa in his room for a while to help him back to sleep. Yesterday I bought him a light-up kid’s globe of the earth (have been meaning to get him something like that for ages as he loves maps and always talks about Grandma in Australia and Opa in Germany and the Mooxies in Africa and the Huut at the North Pole). Last night I installed it on his recently rearranged shelves and moved his playmobile pirate ship up from the loungeroom to put next to it. They look awesome together. But as I lay on the sofa at 5am trying to breath calmly to convince him to sleep, the missing sails on the pirate ship that his friends pulled off at his party in February started to bug me and I thought – I must locate them immediately and insist that Michael attach them again. And I had to laugh at myself, and flick the book on my kindle from ‘Birth Skills’ (way too exciting) to a history of Britain in a vain hope to trick myself into going back to sleep as well. Felix’s breathing slowed, but I realised it wasn’t going to happen for me, so I came downstairs, my subconscious in no way convinced that properly attached pirate ship sails were not of the upmost importance.

On Monday we got back from a long weekend in Berlin (it was lovely, photos soon). Though of course it had its challenges (exacerbated by our stroller breaking down the morning we left, resulting in Michael having to carry the boy around a lot), it was lovely being able to focus on activities for Felix – he is at an age now when it pays off.

Now Felix has three weeks holiday from the barnehage and I am enjoying the rhythm of being home with him every day, playing and reading and walking between my tidying frenzies…

Oh no! I was sure the boy would sleep in after being awake in the night but 6.30 it is… We have already built a train track and a town and found some coffee beans for Douglas to transport at Felix’s very specific request. Another day.

Days

I cannot believe tomorrow is Friday again already. The weeks have been shuttling past so fast. There is always something to do but somehow there has been time for everything, time for resting, time for chatting, and even time for cleaning. In any case, there is only one week left of quite this pace – one week of teaching, and then a break for Easter, before the piles of marking will come in. To tell the truth, one pile of marking came in this week, but given that I have a paper to present on Monday that I have not had time to concentrate on before this week, the marking can wait.

Writing a paper, for the first time in so long, has been an utter joy, though of course I need to hurry up a bit now and tie up some loose ends so I have something to say on Monday. I’ll then have a month or so once teaching and marking are over to finish the longer version.

The little boy is loving not having to sleep in his ‘box’, as Michael called it. We are losing half an hour of sleep in the mornings, but it’s just about worth it to see him padding in to greet us, bearing gifts. Sunday morning he turned up with four books and announced proudly: ‘I have books!’ This morning he came with a pair of socks, a bike light, his bear for himself, Jemima Puddleduck for me, and his blue stuffed dragon for Michael. Michael had already gone downstairs so Felix propped it on Michael’s pillow for a while while he snuggled, and then carried it downstairs to present to him in person.

We have had blue skies and sunshine for hours. The world feels so different.

Saturday morning

This past week or so Felix has been so happy. This morning was lovely. Here he is doing laps around me in the kitchen. He still loves pointing to our eyes, our noses, our mouths.

He loves drawers

and he loves the little plastic shot glasses left over from this party, such a long time ago.

Then I built him a duplo castle while he tipped the rest of the blocks all over the floor.

Felix chatted with Whitby

and helped me take some photos. It was pretty much perfect.

A long weekend

We’re at the tail-end of a beautiful long weekend. Today the week-long heat-wave has slowly evaporated, but we certainly made the most of it, and spent plenty of time eating, playing and bathing outside with some excellent friends.

It was so lovely to have some time off with not only good weather, but a Felix healthy enough to enjoy it properly. Here he is galloping around the trampoline.

 
Today we bought a new oven. I am in love. Excuse me while I wax lyrical. We needed a new one because our old one was too small for our kitchen – both too narrow for the spot and too low for the bench. The new one fits perfectly and has induction hot-plates which are an utter revelation to me. So much better than our old ordinary electric ones – my heavy frying pan heated up in an instant, rather than ten minutes, and I managed to saute the mushrooms perfectly without burning the garlic. Not to mention the fact that food doesn’t fall down the side of the oven any more and the handles of the saucepans don’t bump into the bench-top.

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a novel-reading binge. If I open my novel the minute Felix falls asleep, I can recreate the illusion of being able to lose myself in a book for hours and hours. It’s been quite nice. I read the last two books in the Stieg Larsson trilogy. It had taken me about six months to get into The Girl Who Played with Fire, as the first sixty pages or so annoyed me no end. But once I got past them I actually got hooked and enjoyed them immensely. The story and the characters are larger than life but in the end I found them very likable.

From there I jumped headlong into We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver…

But now this blog post has to stop because my early morning is catching up with me and I need to go to bed. I’ll tell you what I thought about it later.

Fragments

A very good weekend. So lovely to have Michael around. Felix seemed more relaxed too. I’m learning to read his signals a little better – when he wants to play on the floor, when he wants to lie back in his basinet and coo at his lion before nodding off to sleep. Much more relaxing than rocking him asleep in my arms and putting him down only to have him wake up five minutes later, over and over. I sort of miss the amount of cuddles that entailed, though. Will have to make sure he still gets plenty of cuddles. But it’s strange – sometimes he does just want to lie down, and if you cuddle him he gets distressed, which you think you have to solve by more cuddles, etc etc. Not to say he doesn’t love his cuddles, but he needs breaks from them too. You just have to catch him at the right time and put him down before he gets distressed, because once he is distressed, he doesn’t want to go down. And of course I pick him up again if he tells me he’s not happy! Although everyone tells me that babies keep changing – you think you have them figured out and then the rules change. So we’ll see…

This morning we went for a drive in the sunshine, past all the melting lakes. Many of them are still frozen enough to ski over, and even to drive little tractors over. Felix liked the car trip but was a little grumpy when we stopped for our thermos of coffee. I think it was too bright for him. When the sun comes out here it’s clear and cold and piercing and gets inside your head. He’s had a long sleep this afternoon and I tidied up, prepared spinach cannelloni with enough leftovers to last me a few days (Michael is away for four days this week), baked some brownies and put two loads of washing on. Michael’s been catching up on some work upstairs. It’s strange what having a baby does to the time you have to yourself – such a pressure to use it productively! I even tried to sit down and relax instead of making the brownies but couldn’t bring myself to… And now I write and write as he snuffles in his basinet. He will wake up soon. I think. He’s a little unpredictable. I don’t need a nap today because he slept like a champion last night – 9.30-5am, and then 6-8. I woke up at 3 anyway, bursting with milk.

So much learning and rearranging. I am tempted to rush things when he is asleep but I consciously relax my shoulders, breathe. Try to make the tasks that need to be done part of my time for myself rather than something that gets in the way of it. And I hope I will find time soon for other kinds of writing and reading and thinking, in the moments between things. But I am not in a hurry. In some ways I had felt I had run out of things to write about before he was born. I think he will change that. Change everything.

I love him so much. I love his sage satisfaction when he lifts his head from a feed. I love the warmth of his small body in my arms. His dark blue eyes that look straight at me, or over my shoulder at something I cannot see. His uncomplicated delight at coloured blocks jangling above him. I even love the way he kicks his legs in frustration (as long as it doesn’t go on for too long). He is a strange and beautiful creature.

This one’s for Nanna

Now that the little man loves to play on the floor where it’s a bit colder, Nanna (his other great-grandmother)’s cardigans are coming into their own.

He really really loves his koala. He talks to him. And knocks him over. In the photo above the penguin’s already been got. Agh he’s growing up so fast! All the little suits that fit him perfectly last week are now too short…

Forty weeks

I have been meaning to write this post for a while but have been a little distracted. But I want to record what this past week or so has felt like before it all becomes distant history! So… last week it finally began to sink in that there’s going to be a baby around here pretty soon. I got really excited. And realised there was still a couple of things I needed, which prompted a shopping spree. So I bought some bedlinen, for me and for him (thought I’d better get myself a single duvet in case he comes into bed with me and I don’t want to smother him – recently we’ve been using a double duvet each). I bought a chest of drawers. I bought cloths to use on the changing-mat, and some blankets. And then I saw a couple of cute cute cute suits in rainbow colours with lions and mooses and mushrooms on them, and we didn’t need any more clothes but I couldn’t help but buy them. I restrained myself from buying the light-brown furry coat with bear ears. And then I regretted my restraint and went back to get it anyway. I gave it a hug.

I had some friends over on Friday night and made home-made pizza. It was delicious.

Then, over the weekend, the spring-cleaning bug set in. I did loads and loads of washing. I put all his clothes away in the chest of drawers. I moved most of my books from my office to the spare room. I threw stuff away. On Monday I tidied the spare room for mum. I made up the bed for her. I thoroughly cleaned and re-arranged the bathroom. Today I finished the vacuuming and hid in the cupboards everything I couldn’t work out how to throw away. I had a midwife appointment then picked up Mum from the station. So nice to see her. She arrived with a bag stuffed full of gifts from Australia, including the most gorgeous teddybear from my brother and his girlfriend. (And we love all the other presents too!) So, yeah, still pretty excited.

Mostly I feel very healthy, although my belly is starting to feel like a balloon fit to burst.

Michael says waiting and waiting is the most boring thing in the world. He has been fixing door handles and rehanging the fridge door and moving the kitchen light-switch from the hall to the kitchen.

The midwife says everything looks perfect. She says to rest and to eat. So tomorrow, I will try to quell the excitement and get some rest, just in case he comes sooner rather than later. Who knows?

Breakfast with new teapot, for Stephanie

And new egg-cup, but don’t tell Michael. I’ve actually been wanting a proper egg-cup for ages, so that’s ok. They come from my favourite shop in the oversized Swedish shopping centre that perches on the border to Norway. It’s the iittala outlet, which is a Finnish company that produces crockery. They’ve recently brought this Swedish range in too, Hoganas (with a couple of funny Swedish letters in there that my keyboard isn’t equipped for). They have a whole new range, so they are selling the old one off half price. The new teapots were pretty gorgeous too, but four times as expensive, and I love the simplicity of this old one, its balance, its sheen, its wooden lid, and its beautiful big handle, perfect for fitting your whole hand inside. Now I just have to restrain myself from going back and buying up all the mugs and plates and bowls…

Shopping!

No, not for baby clothes – but thanks for the advice!

I just had my first entirely frivolous Friday off in ages. After a delightfully slow morning I went shopping in Sweden. I bought not one but two pairs of winter boots. Although I have already lived through seven northern winters (that’s if you include the English ones, which don’t really compare to Norwegian ones but are difficult enough for antipodeans), I have never bought winter boots. This is due to a general frugality when it comes to buying clothing (and especially shoes), and to a general attitude of ‘making do’. (I’m not sure this is particularly admirable, it’s related to a habit of reading books but not attending to practicalities.) But the shoes I have worn practically every day for the past three years now have cracked soles and let the water in. And tying the laces to my hiking boots was getting increasingly difficult due to a certain little being taking up space around my middle. Anyway, now I have one pair of uber-practical ‘snow fun’ boots which will be suitable for ploughing snow from our driveway, outdoor activities at the kindergarten, and any kind of walking when the weather is treacherous. And another pair of nice warm boots that aren’t quite so hard wearing but much kinder on the eye (and very easy to put on) that I can wear on the days that it doesn’t resemble Antarctica out there. So I’m pretty pleased with myself really.

I also bought a cutting board thing to help me cut fabric in straight lines. Last night I finally got around to pulling out the sewing machine Mum bought me for my birthday. I am starting on a couple of very simple projects to try and get the hang of it. (I don’t think I’ve touched a sewing machine since I was about 10.) And last night I realised I’ll never get my seams straight if I don’t cut the fabric straight. So. Problem solved, I hope. (And I bought a couple of other bits and bobs to help me finish my first projects…)

Last but not least, I bought a cornflower blue Swedish teapot. It is beautiful. I have missed having a teapot. There is a kind of promise in teapots. Of friendship and warmth, of giving time and space to being together. I used to drink tea from teapots with my girlfriends in Adelaide. This teapot is the perfect size, not for a huge gathering, but for two or three. I’m sure it has a happy life ahead of it. It makes me calm just to look at it.

28 Weeks

That makes me third trimester, right? I’m quite pleased about that, as it feels I’ve been pregnant forever. Spring, summer, autumn… And winter arrived with a thud this week. Yesterday there was a veritable snow storm, complete with howling winds. The snow needed clearing from the driveway this morning. Today it was calm, but still snowed most of the day. The kittens are intrigued. At least black cats are very visible in all that white!

It’s a good thing I took a photo of our bright yellow beech tree last week, as now it’s pretty much lost all its needles and reverted into a very spindly miserable brown thing indeed.

I have had a head cold for what also feels like forever. At least eight weeks. It took a turn for the worse last weekend. I was nearly ready to call the doctor in my frustration, but I worked out it’s probably not one cold but at least three overlapping ones (the cost of working in a kindergarten), so I don’t suppose there’ll be much she can do. My voice has been AWOL since Sunday and I’ve been hacking my lungs out, but I feel marginally better this afternoon. They’ve reduced my hours by 50% at work – the benefits of living in a highly taxed but family (and pregnancy) friendly place like Norway – so hopefully that will help me recover. I’ve been exhausted.

Michael has gone to Germany so I have the place to myself for a few days. I lit the fire this evening. We bought a reverse cycle air-conditioning unit a couple of months back, and it’s been a life-saver, but for once the place wasn’t heating up to my liking. At least we have plenty of wood! It still feels a little strange to live in a place like this where surviving the winter has a whole different meaning. As I got the fire going (very easily thanks to Michael’s foresight in ordering and stacking the wood, collecting bags of kindling, and chopping some of the logs into little bits for fire-starters), I couldn’t help but think back over the generations of Norwegians who have survived here. The families who have lived in this house over the past ninety years. And even before that. Imagine living in Norway during the Middle Ages! The whole summer must have been one careful preparation… And I live in the south, where it’s pretty mild. I shudder to think about how they survived up north.

Meanwhile, in the kindergarten, we bundle the babbies up in hats and scarves and blankets and gloves and woolen suits, and put them out in their prams to sleep in the snow. Even the little eight month old. I still can’t quite believe it but they don’t seem to mind.

Speaking of preparation… Twelve weeks until my due date doesn’t feel like very long at all. It’s funny to think that the little creature who whacks me from the inside occasionally but aside from that hardly makes his presence felt and seems pretty happy in there will all of a sudden require a lot more attention. And stuff. Like clothes to wear and nappies and blankets and somewhere to sleep. And very warm clothes in case we ever need to take it outside (or upstairs for that matter). We really haven’t got very much ready yet. We ordered a pram a couple of weeks ago, so that should be ready soon. One of my colleagues says I can go through her baby stuff and borrow a car seat and some other things, so I need to do that shortly.

And then I suppose we need to work out exactly what else we need and start getting hold of it. I had a bit of a look in a baby shop yesterday. It frustrates me that all the boy’s clothes are blue. But despite my best intentions, I find it hard to come at buying the suit with the pink squirrels on it. (Why shouldn’t he have pink squirrels?) Besides, I haven’t met the little creature yet, how do I know what will suit him? Michael’s mum gave me a very cute little pair of overalls with owls on it, but I’m afraid it will probably be too small. It says 0-1 month, but it’s size 46, and I think European baby sizes are basically how big the baby is meant to be in centimetres. Given that the average new born baby is 50cm, and Michael and I are both in the 95th percentile for height, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll get a little one… The smallest clothes I saw in the shop yesterday were 56, which is probably a safer bet… Advice anyone?

Anyway, I guess we’ll work it out! There’s lots of little things I want to get done around the house too over the next couple of months. I think I need a list. The fire is lovely, by the way.

Happy birthday Grandma!

It was my grandma’s 81st birthday yesterday. I even remembered to call her. (It helps that it’s Guy Fawkes day: remember remember the 5th of November.) Anyway, I’m glad you had a nice day Grandma and that everything is going so well for you. I thought of you as I heated up my soup for lunch yesterday. I miss being able to drop in to your place for lunch! (My Grandma has a pretty much open house policy for family members. If you turn up around midday you get lunch. She even gives us keys so we can raid her chocolate biscuit stash even when she’s not home.) And even though she’s on the other side of the globe, she insisted on buying me new curtains – proper curtains, with lining – to help keep us warm this winter. Here’s a shot of them. I love them. I wish she could come around for a cup of tea.

In other news, I’ve been writing and writing and the big siberian larch outside my window is turning brown. Michael thinks it looks pretty depressing, but in the sun (which has finally returned after two weeks of rain) it lights up like a birthday candle.

New template

What do you think? I moved across to wordpress from blogger about two and a half years ago, when I moved to Norway from the UK, with only nine months left of my thesis to write. It felt like a new home deserved a new configuration of my online space. I’ve used the same template since then. I like the old template a lot, but what I don’t like is how it navigated the archives. This template is much better for browsing past entries and photographs…

In other news… We have new curtains!!! (Thanks grandma!) I’ll take a photo when we’ve got them all up. We put up the first set on the weekend. I ironed them first. I’ve never ironed curtains before. That was an eye opener. After ironing what felt like forever I was only a third of the way through. I love them though. I can’t wait to get the rest of them done.

About ten days ago it was freezing for a whole week, a couple of days not climbing about minus five before lunch time. And then it snowed, just when we’d planned to drive up to Oslo for the day. The journey was impossible on our summer tyres, and all the garages were booked out because everyone suddenly wanted their tyres changed, so Michael had a go at them. It was going great until one of the screw heads broke off. Which meant we were stranded for a week until we managed to get a garage to fix it. As soon as we got it back the temperature climbed to ten degrees and it’s rained ever since. At least we’re ready for winter when he decides to show up again.

We did make it up to Oslo in the end, a week after we had first planned. It was quite stressful but strangely entertaining. I’ll tell you about it another time.

Over the Halloween weekend we were inundated with little Norwegian witches and goblins who made off with all our chocolate. A sad thing, I’m telling you. We should have got Mermos to scare them away.

The belly is getting bigger and bigger, and the little monster kicks frequently, which is most reassuring. I’ve managed to reduce my hours at work thanks to the generosity of the Norwegian system, which is very lovely indeed. My eleven weeks left of work suddenly feels a lot less daunting. I dragged myself off to the pool tonight for the first time in weeks and felt like a very slow very heavy fish.

Quiet Saturday Morning

Last night I stayed up till midnight, for the first time in nearly four months. I did feel like crawling into bed around 10, and I was slightly ill with tiredness by the time I got there, but still – midnight! We had some of Michael’s international work colleagues over for dinner. I made roast tomato and carrot soup (yum), and then we had falafels, homemade hummus (I think I’m perfecting the recipe, and topped it with toasted sesame seeds), fried halloumi, roasted peppers, tzaziki, olives, sundried tomatoes, pita bread, potatoes, and a green salad with lettuce, cucumber and avocado. (It was fun expanding the cheese horizons of the Americans – one of our guests had never tasted Halloumi before, and I also gave her some Norwegian brown cheese to try, which she was pleasantly surprised by.) Then at Michael’s insistence (and after a decent pause), I made my childhood favourite: chocolate self-saucing pudding, which was appreciated by all. The kitties were the stars of the show, and enjoyed trying out the different laps, and cavorting with a toy mouse in front of an audience.

This morning Michael’s off at yet another meeting. I’m deciding whether to head off to the shops in Sweden (to be sucked in by a sale at my beloved Iittala outlet), or just to bug down here. Most of all I’d like to go for a coffee with one of my Adelaide friends, or cousins, or Aunts, or my Mum or Dad or brother. I wish there was a fairy who could whisk up our house and our lives and plonk them down somewhere in the Adelaide hills.

My Grandma had a knee replacement operation this Wednesday, and she is recovering well to our great relief. It was a really annoying operation, as she had it done a few years ago, but they discovered they had put in a faulty part that was shedding bits of metal into her knee, so had to take it out and do it again. The first time she had a quite a scare with clotting problems, but this time they were keeping an eye on that from the outset, so it’s all going well. I send her and Granddad all my love and I’m so glad it’s all going smoothly. (In true G&G style, they spent the two weeks before the operation on a bus tour of outback Queensland!)

And two more of my dear Adelaide friends have had a daughter! My poet friend and his wife now have a little Beatrice! (So four of my best friends have, between them, a Beatrix and a Beatrice, born only a couple of weeks apart.) I know my poet friend really loves the Paradiso, and listened to it on audio-book when he was recovering from his stroke. Beatrice is a lovely name – all light and hope and exploration.

So most of all I’d like to see my Grandma, and meet the little Beatrices, but there will be time enough for that next year. In a couple of weeks I get to meet my cousins and my Aunt for a weekend in Berlin, and the Michael’s parents are visiting, and in October I’m zipping across to the UK for a weekend to see my Leeds friends. And my family are with me here, even in the food I cook: Mum’s and Grandma’s chocolate pudding, Dad’s hummus, and the roasted peppers that my cousin Sal learnt how to make when she worked in a cafe.

This week Autumn has arrived – a chill in the air, a smell of apples and woodsmoke, and torrential, flooding rains. I’m loving our little house at the moment – I’ll post some ‘after’ pictures of all the work we’ve done soon. In other news, I’m 17 weeks now, and I don’t feel pregnant at all! In fact I feel better than I did before I got pregnant… We have another scan in a week – it will be nice to confirm that the little thing is still in there! Love to all. xxx

Home improvements

Dad cooking dinner.

Hummus! (And you can see our partially installed dishwasher in the background. It worked but tipped over if you weren’t careful, and we hadn’t taken off the bright blue protective plastic. Dad helped Michael to get this fixed – and propped up to the proper height – before they left.)

Yum! Veggie curry with hummus, coriander, and rather good South Australian white wine.

Mermos trying to help.

Mum patching holes after we removed the green kitchen door that the previous owners had decoratively hung on the wall.

Dad moving the power-point so we could put a bookshelf next to the sofa.

Mum painting our kitchen wall after patching the long narrow crack.

Dad installing the kitchen door back where it belongs. (Which means this winter the kitchen won’t resemble a freezer – hooray!)

When they left, Dad left behind two huge boxes of chocolates (which sadly didn’t last for long), and Mum left behind a gorgeous blue and white fruit bowl with two matching tea mugs, also buying two of the mugs for herself so that we can have matching cups of tea, hemispheres apart.

Now if only they lived a bit closer…

Swimming

I’ve started to show a little bit this week. Not much, but my colleagues are gleefully pointing to any evidence. They are very excited for me. (But the new lady, who didn’t know, was surprised when she was told, so I think if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t see much.) Anyway, this was accompanied on Monday by some rather alarming back pain in my lower back. Nothing debilitating, I suppose, but I am not accustomed to back pain and I don’t like it! And this is only fifteen (well, nearly sixteen now) weeks! I haven’t even gained weight yet! It’s got to be downhill from here. So I dragged myself off to the pool.

It’s a pretty small pool, but it’s only a fifteen minute walk from the house. On Monday I managed fifteen laps, today twenty-five. My back still felt pretty dodgy on Tuesday, but it’s better now. So I think I’d better keep this up. Mermos doesn’t like it because it makes my skin smell funny.

I never used to be terribly good at swimming, but then I discovered goggles, and the swimming cap. Without a swimming cap, all the water gets caught in my hair and drips down into my mouth when I’m trying to breathe. I polished my swimming skills in Adelaide, before I moved to the UK seven (gasp) years ago. I thought it would be a grounding, calming thing to do. It was.

In York I used to swim a kilometre twice or three times a week. I would walk to the pool – an old, fifty metre monstrosity – with my housemate and fellow masters student Neil, early in the morning before our day of writing our dissertation. It kept us sane, and the thought that a friend was waiting for us ensured we dragged ourselves out of bed. I kept it up for another year or so after I moved in with Michael, riding my bike there to break up afternoons of writing and thinking. But after a while the chlorine made me sniffly, and I joined a fancy new gym, where we just used the pool to boat around in after a workout, and that was that.

But I think it’s good for backs. And I love the smooth, cool rhythm of it. And this little pool is more than enough for me in my current state! Tonight I even managed to walk down. It’s still light until about 9pm. There are trees bulging with green apples blushing pink in many of the gardens. It rained heavily this afternoon and this evening the sky was still grey though it’s pretty warm. The ground is clean and shiny.

I arrived home to Michael furiously sanding our kitchen and our lounge room door, to the strains of a rather groovy playlist. The amount of work he’s put into these doors is staggering. (After Dad re-istalled one of them). Stripping and sanding and filling holes. And painting and sanding and painting again. Michael calls it the circle of life. But they’re nearly done now. Just have to get hold of some proper oil paint for the final coat. Anyway, will stop rambling now. Good night!

A nice weekend

I went to a bbq on Friday night and over to a friend’s place for dinner on Saturday.

I slept in.

I did three loads of washing, two of which dried in the sun.

I spoke to my Mum, and my Grandma. And Michael. (He’s in France.)

I tidied and vacuumed the house.

At the bbq, I spoke to a friend who has a baby due the same time mine would have been, and it was ok.

I went to the gym.

I sat in the sun.

With my friends, I walked around the moat of Fredrikstad’s old town as the sun set at 10pm. Fredrikstad is lovely, and has a moat shaped like a star. The water glimmered all pink and gold.

I went shopping to buy things for the kitties. (We are getting both. I am so excited.)

I paid some bills.

I ate a falafel burger.

I jumped on the trampoline.

Tomorrow, I promise, I’ll finish writing the exam questions. Because right now, I think I’ll watch Doctor Who.

Easter

Michael’s parents arrived yesterday for Easter. They seem to like our little house! Although it’s raining at the moment we saw a deer sauntering along our driveway this morning, so Norway is still doing its best to impress. Yesterday we spent the whole morning sorting things out – vacuuming and tidying, clearing the third bedroom which had remained a sort of dumping ground from our move, putting the back seats back into the car and cleaning that up a bit, and wandering around our driveway and garden picking up all the bits of rubbish and cigarette butts that had been hiding under the snow for three months (the previous tenants weren’t the tidiest folk). It all looks pretty good now. Then Michael went to pick up his folks and I put a banana cake in the oven.

It’s lovely to have them here. The weather’s looking up for tomorrow, but I don’t think anyone really minds just relaxing in the house for the moment. We had a lovely slow breakfast of coffee and jam and bread and cheese, and now Monica is getting stuck into our little pile of ironing. (She really really loves ironing and folding clothes. I used to feel a bit funny about that – in regards to our clothes – but I am totally over that now!)

Anyway, here’s the current status of Henry. I reckon I’ll finish Jane Seymour’s head this weekend. First there’s about fifteen essays left to mark, and a novel to read for my class next week. But it’s so, so excellent to have six days off!

Slowly

In the last week we’ve bought a tumble dryer and ordered a dishwasher. Moving up in the world. And some hooks to hang towels on. And lights for the stairs. And summer tyres for the car. I made waffles for breakfast on Sunday. I’ve been making progress on Henry. We’ve stumbled on, alongside our interrupted and interrupting grief. I am so unbelievably glad it is Easter break now. Easter starts on Thursday in Norway, but at the kindergarten we have Wednesday off too. I plan to mark essays all day. It will be brilliant.

The snow has all but gone. The land looks strangely naked without it. Brown and rubbed thin. As though the whole world could just collapse from exhaustion. But it won’t. It will just catch its breath a while longer, while the birdsong already haunts morning with dreams of colour. And before we know it, it will be May, beautiful May, though that still feels as distant as a foreign country.

Update: for old Henry posts, see here and here and here.

Settling in, or, everything is broken

We arrived back very late Wednesday night, or, more specifically, early Thursday morning, after discovering the car had flat batteries (brand new batteries, as it turns out, after the old ones died decisively during the relentless months of snow). Anyway, the car park attendant helped us out and the car seems fine now.

But the washing machine is broken. And the chest of drawers which I’ve been stuffing far too many clothes in for too long is broken. And the top shelf of the wardrobe into which all our paragliders almost fit is wobbly and unreliable. (These are the joys of the cheapest possible ikea furniture two years in.) So everything is very messy.

After feeling rather overwhelmed yesterday, we managed to restore some semblance of order. I found a temporary home for my clothes, I sorted and dusted and folded and threw things away. I collected a very tall pile of phd drafts to take to the recycling. It’s sort of sad to lose all my scribbled notes on the endless versions of chapters, but really there’s nothing I need them for now. Tonight we’re going to thread M’s paraglider back together (we had to disconnect some of the lines from the risers to get it out of the tree), and we’ll try to get a new washing machine on the weekend. Also there’s a huge pile of paperwork that we’re going to put into separate folders. Why does life involve such never-ending sorting and tidying?

I’m sitting at my reclaimed desk space and it’s rather nice. There is no way, however, that I can listen to any of the music that propelled me through the last stages of the phd. So for the moment it’s The Proclaimers.

There’s lots to be getting on with. Articles, book proposal, viva preparation, conference paper, job applications, German and Norwegian learning, getting my head around an Ethnography subject I’m taking by distance education (haha I can’t stop). I still have my ‘reasons to finish‘ smiling at me from my whiteboard. I’m going to leave them there a little longer, to remind me why it’s good to be where I’m at. Because I think it’s going to take a little getting used to. But the sun is shining today; the birch trees are shivering greenly in the wind and purple lilacs poke their faces over the top of our neighbours’ roof. I think I’ll go for a ride later. It’s all good.

Back

Norway was draped with streamers of clouds as we flew in yesterday morning. It took me a while to come up with that word. Initially I thought rope. And then, in a sleep-deprived haze, I wondered about spaghetti strands. They were much thicker than spaghetti strands, the long slender clouds that hovered over the fields and rested on the hills. So many shades of grey. They were pretty from below as well – the fluted sky, soft enough to sleep in.

Streamers isn’t quite right either, as that gives the impression of movement, and these clouds were very still. Anyway…

Flying in to New York was extremely pretty too (we had to change planes there). Acres and acres of bright red forest. Incredible.

We dived gratefully into bed at two thirty in the afternoon. Michael woke me up at midnight insisting that we should get up for a few hours or we’d be up all night. Probably a good idea as we’ve made a dent in the sorting and unpacking, will go back to sleep in a bit and hopefully manage to stay awake tomorrow. We’ll see. The washing is done. The candles are lit. Thomas Tallis serenades. M says it feels like Christmas. I think we’ll survive the winter.

Rainy Weekend

The boxes arrived on Thursday. Six weeks after I sent them. Long story.

We had to make space in the cupboards for all the stuff. Luckily it rained all weekend, which meant we had time to turn this:

into this:

and this:

Now it’s Monday again, and, as always, the thesis…